The Year a Watch Changed Christmas

By Eugene C. Scott

Looking back I don’t know how we hadn’t lost our house. My mom had tried to sell our simple suburban red brick ranch several times but my brother and I didn’t want to move so we kept taking the for sale sign down. Maybe the market was similar to today too. I’m not sure. I was only fifteen and didn’t pay attention to such things. All I knew was that our Christmas tree stood nearly naked in the front room, centered in the picture window, and there were only a few presents under it, one each.

My dad died several years earlier and left us with no insurance and no savings. My mom had found work as a cashier in a local drug store and selling clothes in home shows for a company called Beeline Fashions. Sometimes she also worked as a cocktail waitress in a bar called the Front Range Inn. I worked in a local greenhouse and helped with the bills when I wasn’t being selfish. Times were tough.

But before my dad died, Christmases had been ample.

One Christmas Eve I woke to a buzzing sound. I thought it was my father shaving with his electric shaver. I woke my younger brother, not noticing it was still ink black outside.

“Santa’s come. Dad’s up and shaving. Listen.” We sneaked out of our little bedroom. But the buzz was coming from the living room. We peaked around the corner. My mom, in her robe, looking disheveled, sat on a chair facing the overflowing Christmas tree. My dad was on his knees running race cars around a track. Two new shiny bikes stood cocked on their kickstands and presents of all kinds filled the room. We gaped and then shouted in delight.

My dad jerked around. A car spun out. “What are you boys doing up?” He was caught. Then looking at the track he said, “Santa had to rush off. So, he asked me to finish setting up your car set. Want to give it a try?” He held a controller out to my brother and me.

We rode the bikes up and down the hall and played race track long into the night. Finally, my parents forced us back into our room to sleep until the real Christmas morning. That was 1964 or so.

Christmas of 1972 was anything but ample. I had spotted a wrist watch and let my mom know that’s what I wanted. It was a Timex with a copper face and a big, three-inch wide, tooled leather band. Really cool. I’ve always loved watches. It cost about thirty bucks. Well beyond our budget. Plus Christmas had become about getting clothing we needed not luxury items. Still a boy could hope.

We were not a church going family. Our tradition was to open one present each on Christmas Eve. Then open the rest on Christmas morning. Trouble was, there was only one present. We all sat in the living room staring at the tree trying to decide what to do. Good old immediate gratification Eugene argued to open them now and just sleep in on Christmas morning. My mom loved sleeping in and that argument carried the night. I took the wrapped box with my name on it and tore it open.

Afterwards I stood downstairs in the middle of my bedroom, my long hair covering my face, alone, weeping. The summer before I had been introduced to the Person whose birthday Christmas is a celebration of: Jesus. My life had become a whirlwind of change and newness. It was like a hard cast of clay that encased my life and heart had been broken and was flaking off, letting me breathe real life. That year, as Christmas drew near, through Thanksgiving especially, I ached to experience Christmas as a true celebration of the new friend and Savior I was learning about. I wanted to be thankful for the gift of life.

I didn’t want Christmas to be about getting, even really cool wrist watches. I didn’t know what I did want though. A star hanging over our house. Angels singing. Cattle lowing. Miracles breaking out. For Jesus to erase our pain and loss and emptiness and poverty–not just financially–but emotionally and spiritually too. Yes, that was it. Though that night I could not have said it that way.

I smeared my teenage tears. No angels had sung. And my family was still a mess, and would always be. But my tears were not sad only. There was joy in them too. The cool Timex swallowed my skinny wrist. My mom had sacrificed to buy it for me.

I looked at the watch and realized that’s how much Jesus loved me. Loves us! And in a few months we would mourn and celebrate his loving sacrifice at Easter.

My mom sold our house a couple of years later while I was in the Navy. And since that Christmas Eve, Christmases have been richer and poorer. But they have never been empty. For that I am thankful.

Eugene C. Scott’s favorite holidays are Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. In that order. He still loves watches, especially the two 1940 something editions of his dad’s. Eugene also co-pastors the Neighborhood Church which is preparing for Christmas through an Advent series called “The Gift of Christmas Presence.” It begins the Sunday after Thanksgiving.


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6 responses to “The Year a Watch Changed Christmas

  1. Georgie-ann

    Christmas, although culturally very co-opted, presents and remains a challenge as far as “the real meaning” is concerned. The real meaning historically is one thing, biblically described but disputed by dyspeptic generations of unbelievers, while re-enacted and kept holy by multitudes of the faithful. Even historically, there is great mystery in the message — Emmanuel, “God with us.” How did this come to be? (short answer: “read your Bible” — it’s all in there, & it’s quite a long story that took thousands of years to prepare and carry out!) — (& a great big “God Bless” goes out to all those faithful Sunday School teachers who have been so faithful and instrumental in spoon-feeding the long saga to us, one tiny digestible bite at a time, over the years!)

    But there are those believers who dig into even deeper territory — “spiritual applications” — What does it mean to have Christ birthed IN “me, myself & I,” (another earthly stable of sorts)? Is this being “born again,” spiritual rebirth? And, WOW!, What does THAT mean?!!

    Your genuine private tears Christmas morning, on that long ago day, touch me. Do we find Christ or does Christ find us? Who is the seeker? (“Wise men still seek Him”) I would suggest that we are “small (even puny) seekers” while He is the Great Seeker, Who can make Himself tiny and inoffensive enough to squeeze right down into our sad and lonely and roughened and hardened hearts — and on the wings of a mother’s sweet and sacrificial love offering. Love you can taste.

    Christmas was always such a blessing to me, because my mother (ostensibly NOT religiously inclined), couldn’t help herself but to love it. (She even had to laugh at herself, because her second — and happily successful — marriage was held on Christmas Day, and she just “had” to bring along her 45 portable record player on the honeymoon to play her very traditional and beautiful Christmas Carol record!) Glorious and treasured lights and household decorations (that stayed “up” much longer and later in the year than most!), pleasant feastings on special seasonal homemade “goodies,” the beautiful music of sincerely unpretentious choirs serenading “Noel, Noel, Born is the King of Israel!” and “Away in a Manger no crib for a bed,” and on and on and over and over. She never realized it, but also the religious themed Christmas Cards were very prevalent in that day, and these were equally displayed along with the secular, all around the house (stamps and cards were much less expensive & the sent greetings were many!), and every year my eyes feasted on the simple loving and radiating scene of the celestial birth in a stable, attended and announced by glorious angels from heaven, cozily surrounded by the humble, comforting warmth of shepherds and animals. A picture really can be worth a thousand words: “Glory to God in the Highest, and Peace on earth, Goodwill to men!” I was “converted”/”in love” barely ever having heard a preacher! — a ripe plum just waiting to be picked! Thanks to Christmas and its effect on my (supposedly) unbelieving mother!

    “Silent Night, Holy Night, All is calm, All is Bright,” how simply and eternally the Truth of the Universe speaks to us,…if we were only quiet enough, long enough, to listen and hear,…(selah)

    …we would hear that God IS Love, and He loves us personally, each and every one.

  2. Michael Gallup

    Thank you for sharing your story Eugene.

  3. Georgie-ann

    Colossians 1:25-27 ” … to fulfill the word of God, 26 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. 27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ IN you, the hope of glory.”

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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